Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mariana by Susanna Kearsley (Guest Post/Giveaway)

Please give a warm welcome to author Susanna Kearsley who is celebrating the re-release of her novel, Mariana. Enjoy! 

Can no sex be sexy?

Every once in a while I’ll get called on the fact that my books have no sex in them. No sex that readers can actually see, that is.  I’ve had my love scenes described as “fade-to-black”, “closing the bedroom door”, and (my personal favorite) “one-foot-on-the-floor”, in a nod to the old Hays Code that used to dictate the morals of Hollywood movies.

When people ask me why I do this, I usually just joke that both of my grandmothers were still alive when my first books were published, and I’d have been given the third degree if I had written a racy scene, but the truth is that I didn’t set out to write books with the bedroom door closed—I just learned that I’m not good at writing the scenes where the door is left open.

I read books with sex scenes, and some writers do them incredibly well. I’m not one of those writers. I take heart by simply reminding myself that a lot of the books that most influenced me (and a lot of the movies as well) kept one foot on the floor, too, or faded to black. Which was not a bad thing, for my 12-year-old self. When Rhett carried Scarlett up that massive staircase in  Gone with the Wind, and the film cut to her smiling face the next morning, the 12-year-old me thought she’d had an incredible sleep… Ten years later, when I saw that movie again, I knew differently, and I could fill in the blanks with my own—more developed—imaginings.

Both my grandmothers have passed, but my own 12-year-old daughter is reading my books now, and I kind of like that she’s able to fill all those fade-to-black places herself, to the level of her understanding, and that as she grows she’ll be able to fill them again and again, maybe better than I could have filled them myself if I’d tried writing actual details.

Here’s one of my fade-to-black moments in Mariana, that starts just after the hero and heroine of the 17th-century part of the story have made love for the first time:

“Behind me, Richard shifted his position on the bed. I could feel him watching me.

‘What are you thinking?’ His voice was low, tinged with sleep. The voice of a lover. I gathered the rough folds of the shawl more closely round my naked shoulders and shrugged, a tiny gesture.

‘Everything,’ I told him, ‘and nothing.’

‘And which am I?’

Everything, I could have told him, but the words caught in my throat. I turned from the window to look at him, lying there with his shoulders propped against the bolster, his chest wide and brown above the white linen, his hands laced neatly across his flat stomach. It was an attitude of masculine self-satisfaction, and yet his eyes looked oddly vulnerable, uncertain.
I misinterpreted the look. ‘Is it your wish that I should leave you now?’

‘Why would you think that of me?’ His eyebrows rose, the vulnerability gone. ‘You are not a servant, Mariana, to be thus ordered from my sight.’

‘No,’ I admitted, looking down at my feet. ‘I am not a servant. I am a mistress. A minor difference, I’ll grant you.’

His eyes were steady on my face. ‘You are my love,’ he corrected me, softly, ‘and there is no shame in that. Do you wish this afternoon undone?’

I raised my head. ‘No,’ I told him honestly.

‘I will not force you to my bed,’ he said. ‘I do not want a frightened woman, nor a coy one, but one who gives me love because she wills it so. If I make no promises, it is because the world is an uncertain place, and words matter little. But if you doubt the honor of my love, come.’ He stretched his hand towards me, palm upward. ‘Let me renew my pledge.’

I went to him, as blindly as a flower seeking sunlight, and the shawl fell forgotten from my shoulders as he drew me down to his embrace. It was a tender lovemaking, with none of the urgent passion of before, and when it was over he held me close, my head against his heart, his hand tangled in my hair.”

All readers have their own idea of what “sexy” is, and most readers could probably fill those blank spaces with scenes a lot sexier than I could write. And I still think a scene with no sex can be sexy, sometimes. What do you think?

Julia Beckett believes in destiny. When she moves into Greywethers, a beautiful sixteenth-century farmhouse, she suspects that more than coincidence has brought her there. The locals are warm and welcoming, especially the eligible squire of Crofton Hall, yet beneath the ordinariness, Julia senses a haunting sadness about her new home. Then she learns of Mariana, a beautiful young woman who lived there three hundred years ago. It seems history has been waiting for Julia.

I had the good fortune to be born into a family of readers. My mother was reading Mary Stewart’s This Rough Magic when I was born, so it was perhaps no surprise that Mrs Stewart became my own favourite author.

I can’t remember when I began to put words on paper myself, but at seven - after reading Little Women and deciding that I wanted to be just like Jo - I started writing first chapters, and wrote continually through my teenage years. After studying politics and international development at university, I sidestepped into museum work and at the age of twenty-two became a curator.

In that same year, my sister dared me to stop writing first chapters and produce a book. I’d never been able to resist a dare! By the end of that summer I’d finished my first novel, and I was hooked. My ‘hobby’ had become a vocation.

I left the museum to waitress and write. Working mostly late at night, I wrote my second novel, Mariana, and submitted it to Transworld Publishers’ Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize competition. Four days before Christmas, I learned that I’d won. The very best of Christmas presents, and one that truly changed my life - not only the £10,000 prize, but major international publication of a book that continues to find its own life.
And nineteen years later, I’m still feeling fortunate, doing the thing I love best...telling stories.

Sourcebooks is giving away one copy of Mariana to one US or Canadian reader. To enter, just leave a comment on this post answering the author's question and then fill out the Rafflecopter below. Additional entries are available but not required. Good luck! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Some of the most sexy scenes I have read in books had little to do with actual sex. The build up of the tension between two characters can be completely consuming.


  2. I agree. Dorothy Sayers wrote about her couple Peter and Harriet being together without any details and it was still sexy. I don't need the exact details about their night....

  3. I think "fade to black" scenes can actually be sexier than scenes where the author spells everything out for you. The wrong choice of word or an awkward moment can jolt you out of the book and ruin the mood, whereas when you're filling in the details for yourself you don't get distracted wondering, "Did they really mean...?" or, "Is that even possible???"

  4. Sometimes I would really like to see a brief sex scene instead of just fade to black. It is a little too old school for me. However, if the sensuality is built up then I don't miss it.

  5. I find no sex very sexy. It's all about the foreplay for me. That usually gets my blood flowing faster than any sex scene does.

  6. I actually prefer the "fade to black," etc. in books, I can do without the graphic descriptions of who put what where, and so on. I'd rather read about how the characters feel, about all the sexual tension and longing and what leads up to the sex and then leave the actual act to one's imagination. I'm definitely interested in reading Mariana, it sounds like my kind of book. :D

  7. A scene with no sex can be sexy for me. It is all about the romance, chemistry and foreplay. Thanks for the giveaway. Tore923@aol.com

  8. Not everything needs to be erotic or explicit. Totally acceptable to "have the lobster bisque then go back to his place and yadda yadda yadda". I love being able to use my imagination.

  9. I think the sexiest things are the beginnings of a romance. I don't think there is any sexier then that. It's the feelings that build up to it.


  10. Thanks for the giveaway. I think the " build up" and romance is very sexy.

  11. Thanks for a great post and giveaway!

    No sex can be very sexy ;) A well written story can be enhanced by a well written sex scene and a well written story can have no need for a sex scene. All in the hands of the author. Either way, I appreciate the efforts and story telling abilities of the author.

    I haven't had the pleasure of reading any of Susanna's books, and they come very highly recommended. Definitely on the top of my wishlist ;)

  12. I have to admit that while I do not consider myself a prude by any means, the no sex or fade to black leave a lot to the imagination and I enjoy these very much. I feel that it does not have to be explicit to be sexy :)

  13. I read explicit books and fade to black style. I like to change things up because I find I become less reactive to explicit scenes after a while (could also be that the author of the book at that time doesn't write them so well either). A well done fade to black scene can be just as tantalizing as a good explicit scene. A big part in my enjoyment of either (well, definitely in the fade to black) is the hero and heroine working up to the big scene and the emotions generated.

  14. This book sounds awesome! thanks for the giveaway! Gale

  15. There doesn't have to be erotic or explicit sex scenes for me. The emotion and love felt between two characters is so beautiful that it becomes very sexy. I love your writing and look forward to reading Mariana.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

  16. If it's written right, no sex can be infinitely more sexy and actual sex! I definitely agree. :)

  17. The books that I like the best have great chemistry between the main characters. Sex, no sex it really doesn't matter as long as the characters have that emotional pull between them. I have a great imagination and also have an 18 year old daughter that loves to read so no sex is fine with me. We can both read the book that way!

  18. I think no sex can be sexy at times, depending on what the couple says to each other.


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